Today the theme is crime and the human mind. What if you were falsely accused of a murder? Our guest is one of the most-popular authors of British crime fiction today, Adam Croft, who is also a leading self-published author.
I don't know why this is, but I cannot get enough crime mystery. And while Scandinavian mysteries might be in vogue, it really was the British who invented the genre. I'm in the United States, so to satisfy my craving, I recently subscribed to BBCs Britbox so I could watch even more British crime drama from Prime Suspect to Inspector Morse.
It used to be that a murder mystery involved a murder and then detectives getting to the bottom of “whodunit.” It's a trope that's worked ever since Sherlock Holmes. These days, though, with the rise of the True Crime genre, there is a sense that the justice system itself cannot be trusted to arrest the right person.
So, I that's one of the questions I asked Adam about his book, The Perfect Lie, about a woman who was framed for a murder she did not commit, whether he tried to create a sense that this could be anybody trapped in the system and falsely accused.
A few highlights ..
On Writing Characters With Flaws
I always tried to make the characters in psychological thrillers ones that people can relate to, but they are flawed in some way, all of them I guess. But in ways that people can relate to. Perhaps their flaw is that are a little bit disorganized and chaotic since kids came along. A lot of us can kind of relate to that.
On Standing Out in a Crowded Genre
Well, it is a very crowded genre. It's a very popular genre and I think for that reason, the challenge is standing out. So, I think the fact that the books that have been most successful are the ones that have had very compelling hooks.
Adam also hosts a series of short, half-hour to one-hour, mini courses on how to market and sell more books. Enrolling in each course will give you lifetime access to it. They're also fairly inexpensive at around $29 per course. “No waffle, no padding with background information, just straight into the good stuff,” Adam says.
Listen to the Interview with Adam Croft
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About the Host
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last five years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a book editor to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly and Longreads. Find Howard on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Read the Transcript
Howard: Hello Adam. And thank you very much for appearing on Inspirational Indie Authors.
Adam: Hello. Thank you for having me.
Howard: There's so much we can talk about, but let's discuss what I think is your latest book called The Perfect Lie. First, tell me the basic premise and then I want to go into some specifics on your theme without spoilers, of course.
Adam: Well, the very basic premise is the tagline, which is “What if you were framed for a murder you didn't commit?” It essentially opens on a Saturday morning with my main character, Amy Walker. She's sitting in her back garden, enjoying a nice cup of tea, reading a book, as you do in the summer sometimes. And she goes back indoors and shortly afterwards there's a ring at the doorbell and she answers it. And the police are there and tell her that her father in law has been murdered and she's being arrested for it. And this is the first she's heard of any of it.
Howard: It used to be that a murder mystery involved in murder. And then detective getting to the bottom of who done it. It's a trope that's worked ever since Sherlock Holmes. These days though, with the rise of true crime, there's a sense that the justice system itself can't be trusted to arrest the right person. And in your main character, Amy Walker, did you try to create a sense that this could be anybody trapped in a system and falsely accused?
Adam: Yeah, that's something I'm trying to do with all of my psychological thrillers, really, is to, I think what's scary, is really if you can not necessarily put yourself in the shoes of the person you're reading about, but imagine that it could easily happen to anyone. and you know, there are things in the media sometimes about people who have been wrongly accused of things and I guess it's just one of those things. It's everyone's worst nightmare or up there with it at least anyway and in the book, this is something that just gets worse and worse for Amy when it turns out that it's not just a case of mistaken identity, but somebody has actually gone to enormous lengths to make it look as if it was her and to lay an evidence trail that leads directly to her. And the more and more she tries to fight to get out of it, the worse it gets for her.
Howard: Right, right. And so, you know, through your main character, you created the sense of, are we seeing this all through her eyes and wondering what's going on and discovering things along with her?
Adam: We are, yes, yes. So, it's all from her point of view, and that's kind of crucial, really, in order to see, how things unfold in that way because there are, you know, if we were talking about writing this from, you know, an omniscient third person point of view, the book just wouldn't work without giving too much away. We would know straight away what was going on.
And I think for me, psychological thrillers aren't massively different from traditional crime fiction. They are quite often, a traditional crime book, but told through the eyes of the person who's being most directly affected. So not necessarily following investigation and following the police officers, we're following somebody who has been involved. So, my first psychological thriller Her Last Tomorrow, carries the tagline, “Could you murder your wife to save your daughter?”
The protagonist there, his daughter is kidnapped and he gets a ransom note which says he can have her back as long as he kills his wife. So obviously they are talking murder, we're talking kidnap, we're talking all of the sort of classic crime fiction crimes there, but we don't go into the police investigation, this, you know, it all focuses on the person who's been most directly affected by it. And I think that's kind of the background for me in writing all of those psychological thrillers. It's a slight deviation from what I already do anyway with my main crime fiction series. It's just writing it from a different point of view and from the point of view of the people most affected rather than from the point of view of the police officers.
Howard: Right, right, right. So it's a little different. So it's not what you would call a police procedural. It's more psychological, in that you get into the mind of the accused and then you wonder whether the, you know, the trope these days is the unreliable narrator. And so you have to wonder who's reliable and whether this person's perception is correct or not.
Adam: Yeah, that's a huge element that comes in because you don't tend to get that very often with traditional crime fiction because you presume that the police officers you, you trust and if they're the same police officers you follow through each of the books in the series, you know, it's not going to be them. You don't, you can't have the unreliable narrator in quite the same way. So yeah, I don't see those huge amount of difference in psychological thrillers.
And the crime fiction for me is a change of perspective. There is an element of police procedure there of course, I guess, cause they're, you know, the police are involved in the books, but they're not major characters by any stretch of imagination. It's more about how that process and how the police procedure actually affects the people who become intertwined with it through no fault of their own quite often.
Howard: Right, right. So how do you get inside the mind of somebody, of your main character? Do you imagine that it's you, do you get your ideas from the news, from real events? How do you, how do you invent a character and then make that person real?
Adam: Well, a little bit of both of those, I think. I think I always tried to make the characters in psychological thrillers, ones that people can relate to but they are flawed in some way, all of them I guess. But in ways that people can relate to, you know, perhaps their flaw is that they, perhaps are little bit disorganized and chaotic since kids came along. I think, you know, a lot of us can kind of relate to that.
I think, you know, some of them may, they're just, maybe their downfall is that they are perhaps a bit lazy or you know, not quite on the ball with things and something sneaks in and then takes over. So I think they're very relatable human flaws sometimes the, you know, there are one or two books in which the flaws were bigger.
I think maybe readers haven't related to those characters in quite the same way, perhaps because of that. Yeah, you know, ideas come from me from all sorts of places, really. I think the main one for me is the “What if?” situation and that's why a lot of my hooks begin with this. What if, so for The Perfect Lie, we've got “What if you are framed for a murder you didn't commit?” And that's literally the first thing that popped into my head is, you know, what if that were to happen, that was, that was what was there long before, you know, any characters are in my mind or any kind of plot points or devices or anything like that.
Howard: Right, right. Well, what can you tell me without spoiling anything, about your main character, Amy Walker? What is she like, why is she interesting?
Adam: I probably can't tell you a whole lot without giving it away.
Howard: Okay, Gotcha.
Adam: I mean, it's a very old thing actually because, I'm often told by readers that my characters are very interesting, very compelling, very real. But I always find it very difficult to know why, because for me, I might be raising a lot of eyebrows amongst other writers when I say this, for me, the characters are often very much secondary things to the plot. And it's the plotting for me which is the fun of writing. And maybe that's why the characters are real, I don't know, maybe because I'm not putting too much thought into them. I'm not, you know, consciously inventing them. They are just kind of fairly well rounded, fairly normal individuals that everyone else can relate to. I feel maybe I'm, maybe I'm not overthinking it. Maybe that's the key.
Howard: Well, they're normal people reacting to extraordinary situations.
Howard: Right. So, you know, there are so many murder mysteries and psychological thrillers out there. It's a very crowded genre, but you seem to have found the right formula for success. What makes your stories or your mysteries or your characters stand out from the rest?
Adam: Well, it is a very crowded genre. It's a very popular genre and I think for that reason, the challenge is standing out. So, I think the fact that the books that have been most successful are the ones that have had very compelling hooks and ones that appeal to readers. So, you know, could you murder your wife to save your daughter? What if you discovered your husband was a serial killer? They're all, they all shout domestic. They all ask a question of the reader. They will make you think, “Yes, I've got to read this.” So I think, I mean, yeah, you know, the books are popular, so I presume they must be good as well. But at the same time, there are a lot of good books out there that don't do well.
Adam: And there are a lot of not so good that do do well. So I think, it's probably not the best kind of creative answer, but I think a lot of it is in knowing how to market things and make them stand out there. It's not to say that marketing is where we'll make it a success because it's got to be a good book anyway, but I think in such a crowded genre, doing something a bit different and standing out from the crowd helps. When I wrote my first psychological thriller, I didn't even know what psychological thriller was. I hadn't heard the term before. I just had this idea for a book, which was essentially a crime novel, but for various reasons had to be written in a first person voice from the main person being the effective point of view.
Adam: And I didn't really know what this was and it was only when I sent out to some early readers and they came back and said, “Whoa, this is a great psychological thriller” And I was like “Well, if that's what it is, that's what it is.” And it turns out it's the most massively popular genre I'd never heard of.
Howard: Yeah. Right. And you're taking ordinary people and putting them in extraordinary circumstances. And I think that probably resonates. I hate to use the word relatable since that's such a cliche, but it sounds like, it's about as relatable as you can get, even though most of us, hopefully, we'll never have to go through anything like you put your characters through.
Adam: No, but it does happen though. You know, it's, you know, there were lots of, sort of, kind of miscarriages of justice and there were lots of very bad people out there. You know, in the first book, Her Last Tomorrow, the guy, Nick Connie's daughter is kidnapped by somebody, that happens over the time. Turns out it's, you know, not for those kinds of nefarious reasons, but because somebody has a grudge against him, against his family and that's why they want him to murder his wife before they could have the daughter back, the other child is purely just collateral. And you know, these things happen. It's not all pie in the sky stuff and it happens.
Howard: Yeah. Well, can you give us a sneak preview into what you're working on next?
Adam: I can, yeah. It's actually a little bit different. It's a series that I started writing back in 2011 and I last wrote a book in that series I think in about February 2015 so it's been more than four years since I've had a book in it. It's my fifth Kempston Hardwick mystery. It's a little hard to describe sometimes. I guess the best way to describe it is it's a traditional murder mystery series, in the kind of the golden age style, but set in the modern day. And it's from my point of view it's a deliberate kind of Pastiche and tongue in cheek look at the golden age of detective fiction. So there's lots of kinds of tropes popping up in there, plenty of humor as well. Very, very lighthearted.
Howard: Well, we look forward to it. Well, thank you very much for taking the time to talking to me. I appreciated it, Adam.
Adam: It was a pleasure. Thanks for asking me.